Although he racked up over 500 victories in 26 seasons as head men's basketball coach at Briar Cliff College, Ray Nacke lost the final game he coached.
He'll certainly be remembered not for coming up on the short end of the scoreboard on that particular night, but for the 22 straight winning seasons and 11 district championships his teams captured under his tutelage. Or for his four players who were drafted by NBA teams.
On Wednesday, thanks to a group of basketball Hall of Famers, Nacke gets another chance to return to the game he loves.
The Harlem Globetrotters, who were inducted into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame in September, will honor Nacke when the team plays at Sioux City Auditorium. The longtime Charger Coach will be recognized for his pioneering efforts in recruiting and graduating international student athletes.
In addition, Nacke will sit on the Globetrotters bench and serve as honorary coach.
"I am looking forward to sitting on the bench again, it should be a lot of fun," said the 66-year-old Nacke. "The Globetrotters really represent a lot of tradition in the game of basketball around the world. I'm honored that the organization is thinking of me with this award."
Since walking away from the game in 1997, Nacke has had more time to pursue his other passion, raising horses. Plus, he's spending a lot more quality time with Jeaneen, his wife of 41 years, his three daughters and seven grandchildren.
"I feed my horses every day," said Nacke. "We've got a couple of them who'll run at Fonner Park when the season opens.
"Plus, I've got three grandchildren playing basketball. They're just getting started, so it's fun to watch them go at it.
"I had a great run, but I coached 41 years and that was enough. It was time to let the younger guys get a crack at it."
Nacke also coached high school basketball for 15 years, three at old Granville St. Joseph and 12 more at Heelan. He was named head basketball coach and athletic director at Briar Cliff on April 2, 1971.
While at Briar Cliff, Nacke recruited over 40 players from eight different countries, including El Salvador, Panama, Mexico, Peru, Puerto Rico, South Africa, the United States and the Virgin Islands. Beginning in 1974 with his first two international recruits -- Eddie Warren and Fredrico Butler -- the infamous "Panama Pipeline" took shape, producing a number of high-profile players who were responsible for a great deal of Briar Cliff's basketball success.
Warren (New York Knicks) and Mario Butler (Golden State Warriors) were each drafted by the NBA in 1978, while Ernesto "Tito" Malcom went to the Knicks in 1979 and Rolando Frazer to the Indiana Pacers in 1981.
Frazer, a three-time NAIA All-American who scored 3,078 points in a Charger uniform, helped Briar Cliff to the No. 1 rating in the final NAIA poll of the 1980-81 season.
Nacke also guided the Panama National team to the Central America Games Championship in 1980.
"It all started in my first or second year, when we were playing a game at Doane," recalled Nacke. "They had a couple of Panamanian players on their team, so I jokingly old our student trainer, who was from Peru, to go over and ask them how they got there.
"They gave me a name of a high school coach in Panama and I wound up recruiting Eddie Warren and Fredrico Butler."
"Just like the Globetrotters have been recognized for advancing and popularizing the game of basketball, Ray Nacke was ahead of everyone else by bringing top players from different countries to Briar Cliff," said Mannie Jackson, owner and co-chairman of the Globetrotters. "We salute Coach Nacke for not only serving as a basketball ambassador to international players, but for making a positive impact on the lives of these young men."
The Globetrotters will present Nacke an award at halftime of Wednesday's game.
Brett Meister, a Marcus, Iowa, native and 1988 Briar Cliff graduate who is now the vice-president of communications for the Globetrotters, has been in contact with several of Nacke's ex-players.
"Apparently, several of Ray's former players will be at the game," said Meister. "I also spoke with a couple of his former players from Panama who said they wished they could be there, but instead passed on their congratulations."
Nacke still remembers his final game, a loss at Northwestern, like it was yesterday. He can tell you the score, the exact number of free throws shot and, of course, the names of the officials. That, he says, is a game he'll never forget.
"It's nice of the Globetrtotters to do something like this, because they didn't have to," said Nacke. It'll be fun to see what happens. I suppose they'll throw a bucket of something on me."